Unrealistic demands and deadlines, work overloads, poor communication, out-of-date equipment and/or staff shortages lead to pressure that often turns into stress. However, it’s not usually connected with holidays – or is it?
In reality, holidays and your everyday work are interconnected and depending whether your holiday break is good, or bad, will impact on how well you are able to manage pressure at your work, i.e. to be able to prevent normally stimulating pressure from turning into harmful stress that can cause mental and physical damage. In this age of short deadlines and long hours, you need to compensate by taking frequent breaks as an essential re-charging tactic, and when you do so, it’s really important to switch-off completely and not be tempted to check your email every minute! I certainly think that emailing has become an addiction instead of a communication tool. However, the fact remains that your mind needs that break as well as your body.
Then, of course, there is the matter of your annual leave. Do you, or your boss, view your absence from the office as a potential obstacle to team performance? Do you worry at the thought of those departmental meetings going ahead without your (vital) input? (Perhaps you think that an office rival may be planning to progress his, or her, personal agenda in order to gain a personal advantage during your absence). Then there is also often the very real problem of scheduling a clear fortnight away from the office, which can sometimes look impossible for many managers and/or executives. There are also some employers who may be inclined to make a subtle suggestion that you are somehow deserting your post, and ought to put in extra hours to compensate – a piece of blackmail that can cause needless stress, and should be rejected outright if such a scenario is ever encountered.
However, when you eventually do manage to get away – you are promptly reminded that holidays can often set-up more stress, not less! Arriving at your hotel after various flight delays, your body may have to deal with a different diet and a changed pace of life, perhaps also in another time-zone with consequent jet-lag – and it’s usually about three full days before your system fully adapts to the changes. In addition, you might instinctively find yourself watching the news on TV every hour or so, or trying to find a newspaper, in your own language that will update you to what is happening both internationally and back at home. All this is the opposite of stress management – rather it’s stress mismanagement. Not something that I would particularly recommend!
Being in the same house for days on end with several family members can also be very irritating–especially when you feel you have no personal space. The solution may well be to find a place where you can be alone, even if you have to drive to get there.
Getting ready for work
A few days before your scheduled break, you may start worrying about deadlines and missed targets etc. You even get to the point of worrying about the perceived situation upon your return when you haven’t even gone yet!
Then at the end of your holiday, there is the opposite effect, when you have initial difficulty in concentrating on business matters when your mind is still on vacation and you are unable to immediately focus properly on complex challenges.
A good rule-of-thumb for tackling holiday stress is to treat the annual holiday for what it should really be, that is a completely different experience from the rest of the year. If your normal life consists of continuous urgent deadlines and targets, then ’chill-out’ completely whilst you are away. Don’t plan tight schedules and time-sensitive excursions that will put you and your partner, or family, under pressure.
A good tip is simply not to expect everything on your holiday to be 100% perfect, so that when the aircraft is late or the seat adjustment doesn’t work, or your luggage goes missing – you are still able to smile and be philosophical because you are so relaxed! So, is that a reasonably accurate picture of you – or not? I wonder…
Key points about holiday stress
- You can be subject to stress both in out of the office
- When on annual leave – check your email once only a week, max!
- Chill out! Stress doesn’t live with relaxed people
Written by Carole Spiers and reprinted with the kind permission of Gulf News.
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